Doctor Who: Planet of the Ood

Solana: 'And the comedy classic... Ood, you've dropped something.'
Ood 3: 'D'oh!'

I just knew there'd be some insidious plot behind the Ood's subservience. Voluntary slavery is a tough concept to grasp—especially when you're being treated like crap. That's not to say it's impossible, it just seems to go against all that's natural. So tonight's reveal gave rhyme and reason to our tentacled friends' lack of resistance. They were being exploited, after all. Surprise, motherfuckers!

On the one hand, the revelation came as a relief, as the Ood's benign acceptance of their predicament suddenly began to made sense. With their hind brains removed, servitude became their only means of survival. Unfortunately, it also undermined the one thing which made the Ood so intriguing. Their voluntary slavery sat uncomfortably with me, so I was initially worried that, by excising this facet of their personality, it'd diminish them somehow—and to some extent, I think it did. 'Planet of the Ood' was a decent effort at giving the Ood some back story, but I think I preferred being the dark. I love a good mystery.

The Ood have been one of Nu-Who's moderate successes. In a show where aliens are ten a penny, it's rare to find a returning alien that actually adds something to the show. For every successful alien, there's been a dozen duffers (the Tritovores, the Slitheen, Abzorbaloff, the Adipose etc), but the Ood have that certain something which sets them apart. Their appearance in 'The Impossible Planet', despite almost never happening (they were a late replacement for the ever farting Raxacoricofallapatorians), raised some serious and disturbing questions. Why would the Ood agree to a life of slavery? Would they really die if neglected, and if so—why and how? What was the true purpose of the Ood?

This was Keith Temple's chance to answer some of those questions, and generally, I think he did a good job. The removal of the hind brain was a cruel, yet bizarrely logical explanation for the Ood's placid nature, and I enjoyed Tim McInnerny's portrayal of the Klineman Halpen. His transformation into an Ood was both bizarre and gruesome, yet was a fitting end to his reign of abuse. (A true case of, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em). Kudos, too, to Sigma Ood for promising to look after the tentaclified Halpen. I'm not sure I'd have been so kind.

I was less inspired by the episode's supporting characters. Solana seemed like something of a wasted opportunity. It made no sense to me that, despite knowing the full horror of what was going on at Ood Operations, she still chose to turn on the Doctor without at single hint of moral conflict. This kind of shifting morality for the sake of creating drama really pisses me off, mainly because it's so easy to avoid. Just create a character with a discernible moral outlook, then forbid them to deviate from it unless (a) it's part of the character's development, or (b) there's a sound narrative reason to do so. Don't just have your characters do any old shit because it provides an exciting set-piece for your story.

Mr Kess was also a waste of time. He came across a little too comic book—from his insane cackling as he tried to kill the Doctor, to his glee at the thought of gassing the Ood. Clearly he was an utter shit of an individual. All things considered, I think I'd have preferred to see Keith Temple do something completely unexpected with the Ood. Still, if the rumours are to be believed, Ood Sigma may be returning in this autumn's 'The Waters Of Mars.' Maybe they'll do something satisfying with them then.

Other Thoughts:

—Why wasn't Ood Sigma troubled by red eye? Did they say? If they did, I missed it.

—I enjoyed Donna's everyman reaction to the Ood that killed Bartle. Initially, see seemed disgusted by its appearance, yet as the story progressed she gradually came to empathise with the Ood.

Billie says...

I swear, this was like "Schindler's Ood." The cold, industrial setting, whirling snow, and concentration camp feel. Transporting the Ood jammed together in cargo containers. The sadistic soldiers who were machine gunning the Ood down and gassing them to death. It would have been impossible not to sympathize with the Ood, even in spite of their creepy subservience and gooey tentacles.

There was constant discussion of the Ood rebellion while Halpen walked about, trailing his pet Ood behind him. Maybe it was just supposed to be an ironic statement about how the bad guys saw the Ood as objects, or simply to pay off the hair tonic transformation in the end. But it still felt like the bad guys were constantly ignoring what was under their noses.

Donna was again confronted with terrible injustice and was determined to do something about it. Upset at first and ready to go home (and who wouldn't be), by the end of the episode she had changed her mind. Freeing an entire race from lobotomized slavery and being remembered for eternity perked her right up.

I felt bad for that poor "Friends of the Ood" mole who worked for ten years to get into a position to save them and was rewarded by getting mushed into a giant brain. No good deed goes unpunished. Really.

Quotes:

Doctor: “His eyes turned red.”
Donna: “What's that mean?”
Doctor: “Trouble.”

Ood: “All Ood are born to serve. Otherwise we would die.”
---
Four moor peaces eye rote, sea hear.

5 comments:

Mark Greig said...

“I think your song must end soon”

Oddly, this episode is actually on the telly right now as I write this.

Thought this episode had its fare share of problems but was not a total failure. We got another great performance from Catherine Tate, some further development for the Ood and a decent villain in the form of Captain Darling. But as you pointed out a lot of the supporting characters were weak or so OTT they were downright laughable. And I despite my best efforts I just couldn’t take the giant Ood brain the least bit seriously.

All in all a fine episode with some forgivable flaws.

shawnlunn2002 said...

I think is a great episode, bit heavy handed in some places but still a good idea.

The Ood are technically most successful recurring new series alien we've had and their backstory was satisfying enough.

Some of the music in this episode was gorgeous and the snowy backdrop on the Ood-Sphere was preferable to a jungle or quarry planet setting.

Halpan certainly got his in the most unusual of ways.

Patryk said...

So the dissapearing bees are this years Bad Wolf/Torchwood/Saxon?

And i guess the Ood at the end (your song is about to end) ment that John Smith will change his name to Matt. But that's a bit too early to be foreshadowing that, isn't it?

Michael Colvin said...

I really liked Donna in this episode. She acted as we would and provided a good coutnerpoint for the Doctor's point of view. Compare her with the PR rep - Donna knew what the right thing was. I loved the line of "not knowing what's right or wrong anymore". I think that if Martha were still with the Doctor, we would have seen a very different outcome. So bravo to DonnaDoctor!

Kenneth Serenyi said...

Strange but compelling episode! Everyone just assumes that the Ood Friend scientist died when he fell into the brain? I think whatever impossible force that is keeping the brain alive will keep that guy alive too. He'll be happier with his friend ;)